29 November 2012

Manly Beach, Sydney - A Perfect Day

Today's post was inspired by my friend Maggie's post: A Perfect Day, Krakow.

The day began with a "long black" coffee and muesli with yogurt at Jet, a cafe in the QVB (Queen Victoria Building). The cafe is located just behind the statue of Queen Victoria where sometimes there are skinny teenagers performing Beatles tunes.

After breakfast we ambled down York street and picked up a bus to Spit Bridge and the start of the scenic walkway to Manly Beach.

Walking from Spit Bridge to Manly Beach

In case anyone has come across this post by googling for info on this scenic walk, a few pieces of advice:

  • Start from Spit Bridge, don't start from Manly. You'll want to finish your 3-4 hour walk where there a numerous beer / food / gelato options. There isn't much around Spit Bridge.
  • From Sydney CBD, take bus 178 or 179 from either the QVB or Wynyard station. Tell the driver you'd like to get off at Spit Bridge. It takes about 30 min from town to reach the bridge. Then it's 3-4 hours walking depending on if you stop to take photos, have a picnic, swim, etc.
  • Wear hiking footwear! Sneakers/trainers are fine, flip-flops are not. Most of the trail is not paved.
  • Water, sunscreen and a broad-brimmed hat are a must. I spent the summer cycling for 5-6 hours at a time and have a pretty good base tan. I wore a hat and sunscreen but sweated some of my sunscreen off and got a mild sunburn.

Walking along the trail you can't help but imagine what it must have been like for the first explorers in Australia.* The trail is clear and paved in some places, but you're surrounded by dense brush and unfamiliar animal sounds. It isn't until you hear a ferry horn or come close to a road that you're reminded - oh yeah, I'm in a city of 4.5 million people.

* Incidentally, if you've ever wanted to know more about the history of Australia told in a humorous way, I enjoyed In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. 

Below is an example of one of the more amazing views from the trail. Email subscribers may need to click through to view the images in this post.

I believe this is Dobroyd Head. So, if I were to tilt the camera back a little, you'd see Manly Wharf and the long expanse of cute houses, gelato places, etc. across the water. Behind me, however, were bushes, tall grass and gum trees. It was like being in the woods; I even saw an Australian Brush Turkey (see below). I didn't take this photo...

The Brush Turkeys were back in a little clearing. Their red heads were all I could see at first, then I noticed one had (what looked like) a yellow Hawaiian lei. Their tails look like a shorter version of American turkeys, but they're smaller overall, more like a vulture.

After three hours we popped out at Forty Baskets Beach. I was ready for a gelato and a nap - which is exactly what I got! Here I am with my two scoops of gelato and magazine of celebrity asses. About fifteen minutes after this photo was taken I was asleep on the grass.

That's a terrible hat, is it not? I needed one for sun protection and this boxing kangaroo number was only $8AUS. It also doubles as a beacon, that bright yellow color can be seen from space.

After the nap, we took the ferry back to Sydney Harbor. The MyMulti1 pass covers all buses, ferries, and the subway within central Sydney. It's about $25US per day, but the 7-Day pass for $50 makes more sense.

The ferry from Manly drops you right in Circular Quay. It passes the  Botanical Gardens and the famous Opera House. The afternoon sun lit it up nicely, wouldn't you say?

We had a beer in a pub at The Rocks, then headed to a cheap Japanese Noodle place on George St. (in the Skyview Building behind 85 Degrees Bakery). It's called Mappen and I haven't seen anything like it in the US.

Dinner at Mappen is a steal - $31AUS total for two people including drinks. You choose hot or cold noodles and then add whatever toppings you want - kitsune, tempura, etc. The topping choices are mostly deep-fried, but hey I walked for three and a half hours, I earned a slab of fried sweet potato and a fried manju. 

After that it was back to the room for a shower (I smelled like fried sweat) and a relaxing end to the day.

18 November 2012

Ugly Christmas Sweater Competition

I'm not a joiner when it comes to company activities. I shun the salsa contest (I don't cook), take vacation during Bring Your Child to Work Day, and schedule dentist appointments to coincide with the all employee meeting. My company is great, don't get me wrong, many employees enjoy the time and effort spent to put on these functions, but they're not really my bag.

So when the email went out inviting participation in an Ugly Holiday Sweater competition I deleted it out of instinct, but then I got to thinking. This could be something...

I love awesomely bad taste. I love the movie Mommy Dearest, I love the Chicken and Waffle Cone, and I love William Shatner singing cover songs. Finding just a sweater that's totally wrong in all the right ways really appealed to me. Also, it gave me a reason to play around with Pinterest.

A Brief History of the Ugly Holiday Sweater

What began as a homemade gift from your favorite aging relative became an industry unto itself -peaking in the 1980's (blame Cosby). After going into remission for the better part of the 90s (when ugly sweatshirts had their time in the sun), Ugly Sweater Parties became a "thing" starting in the early 2000's (The Atlantic.com, 2010). By the end of the decade, an Ugly Christmas Sweater sold on eBay for nearly $300.

In 2011, a how to book called Ugly Christmas Sweater Party was released, and the concept jumped the shark. Now, at last, it's come to Orange County.

Next let's discuss the various species within the modern Ugly Holiday Sweater genus. 

The Traditional
I actually kind of like this sweater. If I wanted to impersonate a Scandinavian person I'd get one of these.

Think of four objects that remind you of the holiday season.
Start knitting.

The parallel design is most commonly found in cardigan-style sweaters. The example pictured below also includes fringe, an element disturbingly common in Ugly Holiday Sweaters. 

Obnoxious Pattern
If you look at this pattern long enough, a 3-D Dinosaur will appear.

Zee Goggles, Zey Do Nothing!

Wall Street wasn't the only industry to OD on technology in the 1990's. 

Winter Scenes
Why stick to one color for your sweater when you can use all of them?

Applique and Objets d'Art
I think the candy cane neckline on the green one (below) kinda works. As for the second sweater, it just makes me want to breathe into a paper bag.

While the sweaters shown above are arguably hideous, I would not consider any of them competition-grade. For the big day, I need a sweater that combines bad taste and sincere effort into a marriage where the whole is greater than the sum of its applique parts. 

It's important that the sweater isn't trying too hard, or worse, that it's been modified to deliberately create a gag (see below).

Nor is it fair to get a purpose-made ugly sweater, in my opinion. The humping reindeer sweater is funny, but it seems like cheating.

Because the ugly sweater competition will happen after this post goes live, I will not reveal the sweater I ultimately chose. Please stay tuned...

I'll leave you with some thoughts on the genius of hideous from the guy who designed the Cosby sweater.